A friend of mine sent me this article about teaching teens the value of kindness and how it is such an important skill. I agree with the writer that our teenagers are very egocentric, mostly thinking of themselves. I think part of this is our fault as parents. I know at our house we tend to bend over backwards so that our teens get what they want. Every now and then we have to step back and re-evaluate. Hearing the word “no” once in a while is not a bad thing.
But the bigger issue for me is how to teach kindness, or more specifically thinking of others. I signed my teens up to volunteer for a week this summer, and they enjoyed it but were not passionate about it. I want them to find an interest that will benefit someone else and go after it.
I think the teen girl is headed in the right direction. She is currently in the application process phase of serving as a juror on the local teen court. This opportunity is for teens ages 13 and up. They start off as jurors and can work their way up to serving as a student attorney. A cool way to give back to the community while also helping teens who have made some bad choices and need to get back on track.
We also have plans to return to Guatemala when she is older. We planned this trip while on spring break in Antigua when she was 8 years old. She was born in Guatemala and on that spring break trip she got to meet her foster family. What I was not anticipating on that trip was her reaction to poverty. As we drove outside of the city for our more adventurous activities, she asked what the boxes on the side of the road were. I had to tell her they were houses, but they did not look anything like the houses she knew about. Then while at a street fair when some children approached us to try and sell us trinkets, she asked if they were on spring break too. I am sure you know the answer that I had to tell her. That night before bed she asked the question that I knew was coming… “would that have been me if you had not adopted me?” She was 8 years old and wanted a plan to end poverty in Guatemala. So on that trip we agreed that when she was old enough we would come back to Antigua and volunteer with From Houses to Homes. Their program allows you to spend a week building a home for a family. You actually get to meet the family, and the children in those families get to attend the school connected with the non profit. Our plan won’t end poverty, but it was something concrete that she could hold onto at a young age.
The teen boy does lots of service work through his school, and he volunteers at the local railway museum regularly, but I want him to find that passionate thing he wants to be a part of to help others. He has the kindest soul, so I know he will find it.
So fellow parents of teens, how do you teach kindness and thinking about others? Lets help our teens be less egocentric!